The Meetings Industry, Soon Under New Management

First, I think that I should state that this post is not geared toward all industry old timers, just a select few and they know who they are. Those that are on the front lines of change can excuse themselves from my desire to put them out to pasture. 

I love to rant about the meetings and events industry old guard. Those in the industry that are slow to adapt and still fight against change and how they resist things like going green, social media and making conference content available online.

They live in the past and want the good ol’ days to stick around. They are the folks that fought when registration went to fax and they fought when registration went online…. they are the people that say “our attendees won’t go for that”.

The members of the old guard are my favorite punching bag and they deserve it. They are the ones that are mostly responsible for the meetings and events industry taking such a massive hit during this recession. I would even go so far as to say that the entire AIG fiasco can be attributed to them and placed on their shoulders because they never thought to put ROI on paper until it was too late.

If they had a plan for measuring ROI they could have fixed the AIG shit in a jiffy….. Story Breaks, Meetings Industry immediatly releases numbers backing up the ROI  of such events and takes a strong stand defending them, story goes away… That is how it should have worked, instead we got this………..

AIG story breaks, Meetings Industry sits on hands and goes “duhhhhhhh’, story gets worked into a frenzy, meetings industry takes massive hit as story unfolds, politicians rally against bad spending, industry has no response, bookings are canceled by scared companies, meetings industry finally thinks they should act when members are screaming, meetings industry finally gets off ass and proves ROI of incentives but by now it is too late to stem the tide of opposition to incentive programs and they still are in the freaking bucket because once that horse left the gate it was not coming back.

That is the old guard, they just want the status quo and do not want anything to change. Why measure the ROI of meetings! Things are going swimingly… our attendees love us…until they are not and they don’t.

They still refuse to make their meetings green, they still refuse to make their meetings social, they rally against transparency and they still refuse to do anything that might possibly benefit anyone but themselves and their own little petty agendas. They treat their attendees, their stakeholders and their sponsors as afterthougths.. not their reason for being.

They are on all sides of the industry, they are on the planning side, the supplier side and the hotel and destination side. They are all around us and they have a profound fear of the future because we are coming…

They seriously get my panties in a bunch because they think that they are so special…..(Que Segue)

So…. I read a very controversial blog post by Tim Wise and in his post, he discusses why political progressives should not get very worked up by the recent midterm election wins by the GOP and the Tea Party because these wins are the last gasp of a dying breed.

The post is entitled “An Open Letter to the White Right, On the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum“.

Here is an excerpt from the opening:

For all y’all rich folks, enjoy that champagne, or whatever fancy ass Scotch you drink.

And for y’all a bit lower on the economic scale, enjoy your Pabst Blue Ribbon, or whatever shitty ass beer you favor.

Whatever the case, and whatever your economic station, know this…

You need to drink up.

And quickly.

And heavily.

Because your time is limited.

Real damned limited.

So party while you can, but mind the increasingly loud clock ticking away in the corners of your consciousness.

The clock that reminds you how little time you and yours have left.

Not much more now.

Tick, tock.

Tick, tock.



I know, you think you’ve taken “your country back” with this election — and of course you have always thought it was yours for the taking, cuz that’s what we white folks are bred to believe, that it’s ours, and how dare anyone else say otherwise — but you are wrong.

You have won a small battle in a larger war the meaning of which you do not remotely understand.

The parallels are eerily similar to the meetings and events industry. For so long, many of us have been fighting a battle to bring our events into the future and to make them better, only to be beat back by the old guard and their irrational fear of change.

Reading Tim’s article made me think that maybe I should relax, take a deep breath and not worry so much because the law of natural selection will do its work and the old guard will be replaced, maybe not today or tomorrow but sometime in the near future……..they are going to go away and all we have to do is wait.

The new, younger generation will come to take their place and with their arrival they will make sure that everything many of us have been working for will come to pass.They will be the ones to bring true change to the industry while we fight the good fight to ensure their ascendancy.

When the younger generation takes over, all conferences and meetings will be social, transparent, green, interactive… they will have a blog, an online presence, measurable ROI and content will live on…..

Attendees will feel like they are important, included and valued….. Stakeholders will know the true cost of a meeting at 2:00 in the morning, on a Sunday and Sponsors will measure value and return from their dollars at moments notice, in real time and not by the number of napkins their logos are printed on and they will understand why it is important to become a conference partner, not just a piggy bank…………

They are coming, can you feel it…

Perhaps we will do a little better under new management.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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